Catalysts

In college we had a rule: once Hitler and/or Nazi’s are mentioned, a debate is officially ended.

In Europe, Nazis and Hitler are simply not be discussed openly in mixed company.  Jokes about concentration camps or any such light treatment of the holocaust is met with shock and disgust.  Nonetheless, even among my well-educated American friends, ironic references to both were frequently bandied about just like on the television sitcoms we were raised on.

Americans have the luxury of being jaded.  To be cynical.  To criticize their own government is a fair and easy substitute for understanding other places of the world.  We outsource that search for meaning to charitable organizations with clear goals published in glossy pamphlets.

Catalysts

In seventh grade, we learned about catalysts – molecules that facilitate chemical reactions without being consumed by them.  Enzymes are the organic catalysts that make human beings walk and talk and live.  Actually, catalysts, organic or otherwise, don’t strictly make anything happen.  They have no purpose per se.  They just are – they exist – and in so doing, help human beings do the same.

Wax is not a catalyst.  I suspected that it might be, as objects coated with wax, such as candle wicks, burn so much more readily than naked lengths of string.  Furthermore, combustion of candle wicks (and human beings for that matter) is a chemical reaction.  It made sense to me, but my science teacher told me that wax is not a catalyst for anything.  Its apparent helpfulness in the realm of incineration is nothing more than a physical and chemical coincidence, and is not worthy of the moniker “catalyst.”  This answer was enough for me, and I took it to be the truth at the time.

I only think about the catalysts that wax is not just now because I am writing you now by the light of two Japanese tea candles in my three-room Japanese apartment where I live with my two Lithuanian roommates.  I am not allowed to live here; the apartment is rented as a double.  Whenever the doorbell rings and I am home, I have to jump into the closet and slide the door shut behind me in case it’s the landlord checking in.  My name is not on the lease because if someone is going to get kicked out of the house, it should be me.  Like it or not, the situation is such that I have more economic flexibility at the moment than do my friends.

The small inequalities

We have all just finished a six-month contract at the world Exposition in Aichi, Japan, where people could come to see all that the world has to offer.  And what the world has to offer, it seems, is a good deal of inequality, at levels that I had never before imagined.

It is not necessarily the huge injustices that are the most striking.  It is the small ones that make it difficult for me to sleep.  And the small ones are everywhere.  What is even harder for me to accept is how easily those small problems are ignored by anyone unless you actively try to find them or have them clearly and unambiguously pointed out to you.

The small injustices are not the ones that appear in UNICEF brochures, not discussed at international summits, these are micro problems that reflect the mindset that creates these iniquities.  I don’t know the causality, I can’t say which is a catalyst for the other, but I do know that for no reason except for accident of birthplace, some people will walk away from things like World Expos with a hell of a lot more money than they deserve, and that some walk away with a whole lot less.

See, while all of us were paid well by the standards of our home countries, but whereas per diem allowances were a nice bonus for the staff of some pavilions, it made up the majority of the compensation for the staff of others.  For example, the monthly salary for some pavilions was roughly equivalent to three days of per diem.

Nonetheless, we decided to chance it and to live out the remaining two and a half months of our still-unexpired Japanese work visas in Tokyo.  Why not Nagoya, or Kobe, one of the smaller, cheaper Japanese cities?  I think my roommate put it best when she said “if we are going to live in Japan, risking everything we have and more, I think we deserve to risk it all in Tokyo.”

The Tokyo refugee dating scene

We call ourselves “the refugees.”  And like many refugees, their college education, natural charm, and fluency in Lithuanian, Russian, English, and Japanese, make them far more qualified for employment than most American and European expats wandering aimlessly around Tokyo.  It’s not that their gamble isn’t paying off; one has an offer to work at the Lithuanian embassy and her schedule as an English teacher is filling up rapidly.  She has even found a few Japanese students who want to learn Lithuanian.  The other has found work as a server at a high-end restaurant off Aoyama-Dori, the “Champs Elysees” of Tokyo, and just tonight returned from her first (of many, I hope) gig as a runway model.

But there is a darker side to the experience as well.  In skimming the classified ads, both are aware of the opportunities presented by the pervasive and less-than-thinly veiled Japanese fetishism and obsession with the Westerner – want ads for Western hostesses to entertain Japanese men non-sexually in posh-looking nightclubs.

The myth of course, being that most Japanese men feel powerless to attract the attentions of a Western woman without paying for the service.  But a myth propagated by both sides for so long has a way of becoming the truth.

My roommates tell me that many Japanese men still become so dumbstruck by the sight of a Western woman that they will stop on the street and stare, or peep furtively over newspapers on the train.  I’ve seen it too: Western women reducing perfectly intelligent and articulate, grown, Japanese men reduced to gawking speechlessness and the charm of a fourteen-year-old boy.  It’s no wonder that many Western women leave the country with the impression of Japanese men are sex-blinded little boys.

That said, my experience with the Japanese women my age in the dating pool has not been great either, and I see the behavior that contributes to so many Western men’s perception of the average Japanese woman as a silly, giggly, little girl ready to leap into bed at the first racy compliments tripping off of a Western tongue.

I asked my Japanese women friends if and why they really do prefer Western men.  Evidently, Western men are much kinder, will open a door for you, or will say that you look beautiful – things that Japanese men evidently never do.

Now I don’t know if that’s true, as I have neither courted nor been courted by any man, Japanese or Western, but I can say that I have observed ungentlemanly behavior on both sides.

I will simply mention my own pet theory that the majority of Western men in Japan know that this preconception exists, and do their best to fulfill it to their benefit.

The plight of the half-breed

I may be wrong; I may be too cynical.  At any rate, I don’t seem to fully benefit from this preconception of Western men because of my impure racial status.  As half Japanese, I am not quite western enough to be exotic, nor am I quite Japanese enough to be fully accepted as one.  I do, however, seem to appear Japanese enough for white women to assume that upon meeting them for the first time, I will stop and drool over their Western-ness, a fact which became very clear to me while working in the international environment of Expo 2005.

In fact, most Japanese see me as fully white, whereas in North America and Europe, most white people consider me (even after being corrected) to be Chinese, which is evidently ‘close enough’ for them.  To complete the triangle of racial confusion, I recently discovered that in China, or at least a Republic of China, most people assume that I am Japanese.

The politics of travel for the modern circus acrobat

Last week, I returned from an eight-day contract in Taiwan.  What exactly I was expected to do there is still not clear to me, though what I did do there is now done — I worked with the Taiwanese National Junior College of Performing Arts and the Taiwan Arts International Association as an instructor, collaborative creator, and performer.  What I will remember of the experience is so much more complicated than that.

I am a circus performer.  I would like to believe that there is more to what I am, or rather, I wish that being a circus performer was something that I could believe to be important.  Something that I would not have to justify and qualify to myself with additional clauses like: “but I am really a writer,” or “with college degrees in completely unrelated fields,” or “but I hope to study political science next.”

One of the unique aspects of the classical circus tradition that carried through from medieval times is that a travelling performer is seen as a true “other.”  We are definitely no native to the towns and cities where we play, but we are not seen as simply tourists, either because we spend more time in the various locations and interact more directly with the locals.  It is my goal to be able to fit into the local environment completely – to pick up on enough of the local language, history, customs, and politics – to really feel at home no matter where I am in the world.

So far, it has taken me from the internationally isolated expanses of the United States to schizophrenic and judgmental, if equally uniformed, Canada, to the injured multiculturalism and thumping nightclubs of Holland, to the seedy side of the Ramblas in Barcelona and its denizens as contrasted with the pace of life in the smaller coastal towns of Catalunya.  The marble-paved central square of Torino resonating with the droning and birdcalls of a misplaced digeridoo, the lakeshore, affluent college town of Zurich, the provincial countryside in France as contrasted with the very different remoteness of an tiny town clinging to an impossibly steep mountainside high in the French alps.  Munich, Nyon, Tokyo, Nagoya, New Zealand, and now, most recently, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.

Everybody has an enemy.  Everybody has his own prejudices.  Everyone finds a way to love himself, even if they hate doing it.

I am on the bus, riding in leather-upholstered comfort from the airport to downtown Taipei.  This is the first time since leaving the United States four years ago that I have not been capable in the native language of a country that I am working in.  For me, capable means being able to get a hotel room, order dinner and a drink, meet a new person, and make a woman laugh without ever having to speak a word of English.

I hate to do it, but it is inevitable.  In a new country, I can not help but make comparisons to other places.  It helps me keep everything in order in my mind.  I worry that by drawing comparisons to places I know will keep me from seeing the new place as distinct and unique, but in fact, I think it has the opposite effect.  By comparing one city to another, I bring into focus all of the things which make them different, like overlaying two photos that differ only in the smallest details and holding them up to the light.

Forgive my romanticism, but there is a soul to a city.  It is in its smell, perhaps – no city smells like any other.  I have to be careful always to separate the feel of the wind in a city, Boston, for example, from the memories that I might associate with that city.  The 11pm sunset and 4am dawn of summer in Holland is not the feeling of a woman’s hair gliding through my fingers and a light kiss on her cheek to the wafting perfume of blue roses, though the two are forever intertwined.  One is for everybody, the other is for me.  And her, I hope, always for her.

I used a new trick in Taiwan.  A city fits a person like a new outfit; well, or poorly.  Standing on a corner next to a vacant lot under a highway overpass with the buzz of Vespa-like scooters Dopplering around me as the lights in a distant apartment complex blinked out one at a time, I imagined myself to be in Minneapolis.  Or Boston.  Or Tokyo.  All cities that surely became my home in one of the alternate realities of my life, and one that actually became my home in the current alternate reality – at least for another month.  Separate from the memories that I associate with each city, I was surprised to find that Taipei could feel like home as easily as any other city I could think of.  And so I decided that I would explore it as though I lived there.  Meeting people, making friends, wasting time.

There is a state of openness that I find I can only achieve when I travel.  It makes me handsomer and more interesting, I think.  It makes me risk more.  My best friend tells me cynically that “people always love you when you are leaving.”  I guess it is only fair, because I always love them when I get there.

I found that all of the people I met in Taiwan were amazingly open compared to what I had come to know in Japan.  The political complications and views were just below the surface, and could be exposed with the slightest provocation, expressed with an onslaught of passion that in addition to being a little unnerving, was fully refreshing.

The key issue of course, was that of Taiwan’s independence from mainland China.  Among the people I spoke to about the issue, there was no identifiable consensus, nor was I able to find a clear demographic divide in their views.  No one seemed to subscribe to a majority “party line,” though everyone could list off a buffet of party lines that they were not willing to subscribe to.  According to them, such simplifications do not adequately address the complexities.  This was unlike what I was used to in Canada, for example, where the consensus among my artist peers was that the United States is bad, though people rarely researched any deeper than that.  In the United States, I find that there are those who accept the party lines, and those who calmly step outside of the arena entirely.

For example, there are the American travelers whom I encounter who respond to any criticism of their homeland simply by saying that they “didn’t vote for George Bush,” as if that absolves them from responsibility.  Or even worse, those Americans who sew Canadian flags on their backpacks to hide from scrutiny instead of informing themselves enough to engage with criticism of American foreign policy and intelligently discuss current politics of the foreign country than the average local.

In preparing to visit Taiwan, I read as much as I could about the history and current politics of the island.  I felt like I had a pretty good overview of the issue, but after only eight days there, I understood how each person’s unique family history and world view will forge, over lifetimes and generations, a spectrum of possible opinions on the matter.  The articles and books I read could not do justice to the intricacies of any single individual’s story.  Even the people who didn’t give a shit had detailed, well thought-out arguments to support that viewpoint!

The Taiwanese certainly seemed unified by their disagreements.

Teaching new circus in Taiwan

I was in Taiwan to teach Western-style physical theater and modern clown to the state-supported National Chinese Opera and National Circus Troupe as well as performers from an established Chinese Opera company.  I was also supposed to help create and perform in a “modernized” acrobatic/circus/clown show.  I wouldn’t have felt qualified to volunteered for such a job, even before discovering that it was infinitely more difficult than I first supposed.

In Taiwan, budgets are rarely high enough to invite a Cirque du Soleil-style show and this is the company that defines modern circus for most of the world.  Very few western dance companies, theater companies, and musicians, let alone large circuses, regularly make Taiwan a must-visit top on tours, even tours that take them through Asia.  Those artists that do perform in Taiwan rarely stay to participate in any sort of exchange with local artists.

For arts in general, but particularly for the specialized fields of clowning and physical acting, this means that a Taiwanese artist in Taiwan interested in an area of art that develops off-island, they have little choice but to research on the internet.

I met a Taiwanese Flamenco dancer at a dinner party who explained that five years before, it was impossible to learn Flamenco in Taiwan.  Only five years ago some foreign Flamenco teachers first came to visit, and had been received with much enthusiasm.  As a result, their students voraciously consumed what the teachers had to offer, but at the same time, as the Taiwanese were unhindered by the years of history and tradition that the instructors were, some interesting and novel hybridization took place.

Modern dance has a longer and more home-grown history in Taiwan.  Some internationally known dance companies developed, but as the time came to replace founding members with new local talent, it was evident that the pool of trained dancers was not as deep as in North America or Europe.  Taiwan lacks a long tradition of Western classical dance, and therefore, fewer young dancers.  What Taiwan does have, however, is a long tradition of the traditional Chinese Opera, with its athletic blend of martial arts, acrobatics, and object manipulation.  New dancers were often recruited from those Chinese Opera, performers who, for one reason or another, had retired from the Opera, which brought a vocabulary to the Taiwanese modern dance repertoire that is not seen anywhere else in the world.

But without real person-to-person exchange, research alone cannot put flesh on the skeleton of pure research.  It is even worse when you consider that the internet is more a reflection of popular opinion than actual fact.  For proof, simply enter “clowns” into a google search to see what my Taiwanese students were expecting me to teach them.

This is a valid style of clowning with a long history in the United States.  But such clowning is far from the European tradition and the experience of traditional audiences in Asia or anywhere else in the world.  But without a pre-existing circus clown tradition in Taiwan, there was little resistance to the importation this out-of-context image of a “Western clown.”  But it is superficial importation taken out of context has resulted in a funny sort of game of cultural “telephone.”

So my lesson plan that focused largely on using honesty and vulnerability to express your true self on stage with subtle simplicity and to fight impulses to “perform” was pretty alien to my Taiwanese students’ preconception of clowning.  My first clue should have been when I was given as possible themes of my workshops “the facial expressions of clowns,” and “acrobatic falls of clowns.”  Their notion of clowning has been formed from an outside-in perspective and follows the wushu, Chinese Opera, and circus training pedagogy of repetition and imitation.  Chinese opera roles are learned by physical rote repetition, and circus numbers are taken move-for-move from numbers that were performed 10, 20, or even hundreds of years ago.

But in some ways, these artists, my students, were also fed up with aspects of this tradition.  They saw that what is happening in international modern circus is lacking in what they practice in Taiwan, but they couldn’t identify just exactly what it was.  But one thing seemed to click.  They were obsessed with one principle I mentioned in the first class: “feeling.”  I talked about only doing what we really feel on stage, not doing anything artificially, and this seemed to be a novel idea that resonated with them.  They asked me countless questions about feeling: What do I feel when I am doing my circus number?  How can performers learn how to feel more when they’re on stage?  When I am onstage, are my feelings my feelings or are they acted feelings, etc.?  Unfortunately, these are the same questions that I ask myself, and therefore I had no clear answers for them.

Teaching the class in a country and to students with vastly different performing arts traditions opened my eyes.  Exercises that I considered my “throw away” exercises, ones that are done to death in every acting class I had ever taken or taught, suddenly took on entirely different meaning.  Old explanations of certain exercises were no longer adequate, and I saw students discovering whole new truths and applications that I had never even considered before.

The culmination of the whole experience was an on-stage appearance with four other Western clowns and half of my students in a performance that showed just a little bit of what can come of young artists searching for new meaning in a country’s traditional arts.

By the way, it turns out that what is actually burning in a candle is the wax itself, and that the wick acts more like a catalyst than the rest of the candle.  The way the wick is manufactured and woven influences many aspects of a candle’s performance such as longevity and amount of smoke produced.  All this and much more information for people who care about such things can be found on the internet here.

I pray that we are all people who care about such things.

Acrobats setting up for a circus street show in France

Many Problems Abound

Today was the first day of final exam presentations which were a lot more fun than I expected them to be.  It’s not too high-stress.  I managed by best side summies and hit the standing full.  Mario mentioned to the jury that I kept working in spite of my wrist injury which was nice of him. 

Aladdin went, and that’s the most important thing: it’s just done. 

Trampo was fine, I had fun but I mistakenly thought it was two warm-ups and one real one but it was actually one warm up and two real ones and I screwed up on one of the real ones but I still had fun and the teacher didn’t fail me.  I’m really tired because I got in at 1am this morning from Boston where I spent a day or two to see friends. 

Friday night I went out to The Clown’s house which was fun.  I was able to actually shoot the breeze and make people laugh and be interesting in French which is an improvement. 

The Clown and I worked on our juggling number for about 90 minutes today because we present tomorrow.

Circus school friends

Working Hard At Not Working Hard

Lousy evaluation in Jeu: C for being tired and either late or arriving just before class starts.  I also need to work more on writing for various projects instead of sticking with the simple things.  I guess i agree with that but as I was telling The Clown, I haven’t felt comfortable doing harder things yet because I don’t feel I’ve mastered the simple stuff, but if she’s indicating that i need to try harder things i will take that as a sign and work at it. 

Preparation physique was fine, not too tough today. 

It felt like spring and as one of the first year girl’s has just broken up with her boyfriend which always changes the chemistry in the school I found myself at my charming and flirty best today!

In Equilibre i did some one-arm work with Larissa for the first time and she had me do cool drills where we actually held each other for the one arms to actually feel exactly what you have to do to hold it. 

Worked with Esteban on crosses again.   

Trampo was trampo and my pike barani is not too bad.  At the same time i was trying to work standing back fulls with Straps Guy and another of the upperclassman.  I meant to do back fulls but kept doing back full and a half so they were teasing me for that. 

Finished up the day with tightwire – I got A’s and B’s but the evaluation got weird when the teacher asked me why all the girls are trying to switch out of his acro class. 

I’m really exhausted I didn’t get much sleep last night because there was a big dinner with my roommates but it’s still good. 

I’m definitely eating better which boosts my energy.  since so many teachers said i was working too hard and tired all the time i’m going to take a couple of days where I don’t do any additional work just to give it a rest anyway and take some time for myself.  it’s against my nature, and the first time i’ve done it since starting the school, but they insist that its better so I’ll give it a shot.

Acrobats backstage at the circus show "Kosmogonia"

First of the Second

Oh my god.  Two weeks is far to freaking long to be on vacation.  I got to school at 8 so that I could get ready, say hi to people, etc, in addition to getting used to a more morning-like schedule.  Just got in from vacation yesterday at 4, too.  Jeu was fun, we did a lot of warm up things, and finished with the mirror exercise where one person needs to tell a story while the other leads the mirror.  One of the other first years and The Clown went and it was hilarious, and then The Acrobat and one of the high school girls went and it was fantastic and I was paired with The Dreamer. After the pause we changed partners and I went with The Contortionist. We had to declare love to each other.  I ended with crawling under the carpet with The Contortionist.  We had a good time. 

I had prep. physique with Richard for the first time.  It will be much harder, I think.  Then, equilibre with Larissa.  The only injury I have right now is my left wrist.  The bone in it hurts a lot, just the tip of the radius or whatever.  My balance was all off, and I think that that frustrated her.  She and Alex are really hyped about getting me the info for the school in Moscow.  I’m excited that they are so excited, but I am also worried that it will be a huge decision in my future.

Acro was acro, with Esteban being all excited that I went to Mexico, telling me that the best bordellos are in Tijuana, etc.

Trampo was another example of being really out of form.

We are switching to “monkey feet” tight wire, and the whole apparatus came tumbling down before we started due to no one’s fault, really.  The monkey feet hurts a bit, but will be a fun challenge.

Then I did an hour of flexibility, including my active flexibility workout which essentially entails martial arts training (the kicks).

That one teacher who works all the time came up to me and The Clown and said in French that she did not get a chance to talk with us after the evaluation concept, but that she really liked what The Clown, The Acrobat, and I did.  That was nice to hear.

Alex also told me stuff about eating and told me that we will talk about my future sometime.  He said that there are alive foods and dead foods, and that you need to eat the alive foods.  He could not really describe the distinction.  Eggs are alive.  Mayo and canned foods and pasta are dead.  Rice is alive.  Fresh fruit and vegetables and meat are alive.  He said that his main hand-to-hand students understand only a little of what he says, and that he will tell me more day by day.  It is good to be back and to be healed with the exception of my wrist, but two weeks and a half gets you really out of shape in the worst way.  I hope it all comes together soon, but I am relegated to feeling really sore tomorrow.  It was great seeing The Clown and The Acrobat again.  The Tumbler broke his foot falling down the stairs outside his and The Clown’ home!

Circus acrobats backstage at Paleo festival next to their costumes

Midterms 2

First meeting with the artistic counselor for our Evaluation Concept today.  We tried to set up some semblance of a schedule, and assigned characters.  In my mind it was perhaps a bit too premature, but on the other hand, what better time than now?  I am a little surprised at how hard a time some people have at creating a character.  I guess it’s one of the advantages of coming from a theatrical background.  I had to do an improv sketch in French, though, and it was only moderately successful.  I think part of it was that it was the first time I’d ever worked with the professor.  The Clown is really happy to have his direction because he is ‘really good’ at theater stuff and has ‘a lot of experience.’  Be that as it may, I am worried that the director is using this as an excuse to railroad his ideas.  It is a danger to impose your ideas in group work because you will eventually run out of those ideas and feel as though you are doing the same thing over and over.  I don’t like anyone’s opinion to override anyone else’s.

Trampo was good, and I started work on back layout today.  It’s hard because with correct trampo form it feels like you are arching like mad.

I have an evaluation in my trampo minor also!

ITA I learned the other form of cradle today and had my barre fixe assessment, which was a piece of cake.  I finally got the hang of the porting, though, which wasn’t bad.  You just need to not bend your back at all and use your arms.  Being small is a huge disadvantage for me, though.

After juggling where we just did our assessment and I didn’t do too bad, we saw the Jeu III students present.  They were pretty good!  A few were a bit less interesting, but it was nice seeing people’s stage presence, though.  Straps Guy is really good at it. 

Main a Main was cool because we did planche and I finally got my timing down as well as being able to be the pusher on the running form of planche.  You need to bend when the pushers’ first foot hits, and finish your jump as soon as they touch the end of the board.  I jump too far, but Sylvain let me do a double (“just for fun; this isn’t track and field”).

After main a main, it was time for a half hour of free equilibre with Byamba.  I was pretty exhausted, and I think he could tell, but this is experience I need to gain.  3 hours a day is the goal.

Movement assessment was weird, we just did the standing there humping thing, and then did the four people humming and one person following thing.  The Trapezist told me that she thought I was good at the moving freaky thing.  My only goal was to be entertaining using breakdancing moves, silly noises, long pauses, and the like.

Then I got a pretty good massage from one of the girls in the first year who has gender issues about how the group immediately saw the Boss in our show as being a male.  I think she worries too much.  At first, the group wanted me to be the boss, but then I said I’d prefer being the troublemaker, and they agreed.  This exact first-year was being pressured into being the lesbian boss, but then because the wife of the boss at my suggestion.  All of it happened too fast, though, and she is now maybe unhappy about it.  Good massage, though.

Flexi assesment tomorrow.  Oh my god.

The street performer hotel room - three circus acrobats in a car

Midterms

Early day.  Jeu was not so good, I was just feeling slow and ideas were not coming.  The Clown and I were selected to do a group exercise for the first example of something in protoimprov.  It was cool and we did well.

Then I had equilibre, after dropping all my freshly cooked pasta on the floor.  I do like that Larissa is so tough on me.  I see it as indication that she has high hopes for me.

Trampo evaluation went really bad.  I think because I was so tense.  All my warmups were good, but the actual evaluations were crap.  Yech.  And in acro, I was misunderstanding instructions and flopping all over the place.

The fil de fer assessment was a little more low-stress, so I took the opportunity to challenge myself by doing the whole assessment on the high wire.

One of our year did not do so well in his trampo assessment; he was told he could not pass the class at this rate.

I did a class in equilibre with The Acrobat, The Trapezist, and The Tumbler.  When one of the other students, he asked me sarcastically if this was my class and I said no and kept working.  The funny thing is that Byamba worked more with me than with him who kept goofing off.  Also, The Tumbler complained that his shoulder hurt a bit to get out of an exercise or two.

Then, after a bit of shuffling around, in three high columns, I felt the connection to the base for the first time!  Yahoo!  Just when I was about to give up hope and say I was not cut out for it.

Planche I also found the rhythm on for the first time.  You need to push immediately after coming in contact with the board, and not before, or you just rebound off the wood, which I was doing.  I just need to control where I land, and things will be great.

Things to remember:

Man, my kicks look good with my newfound flexibility!

Showing off muscles with the guys.

Byamba pushing The Acrobat down while saying “alle, alle,” to punish him for not working.

Trying a manna for the first time with Byamba’s help (2 months, I told him)

Talking late with The Trapezist about social life.  She says I’m complicated.  I told her I just tell people what they tell me.

Night!

Four very tired circus artists waiting to catch their train back to the streets

Extracurricular

Theater class was pretty good.  The Clown, The Trapezist and I ended up doing another stage combat scene in which The Clown was a tough guy, I held on to his shirt, and we picked on The Trapezist who kicked our butts.  I took a long nap in the weight room after class, and then had another class with Larissa, which was fun.  Tumbling was frustrating because I was not getting side summies at all, and then in trampo I had a nasty fart in my belly that was distracting me and not letting me really work well.  It’s hard to hold gas in when you jump on that thing.  Tightwire was tightwire.  The only interesting thing was that The American asked The Clown why he always picks on her, and he said “Because I think you are funny.”  Russian bar was a no-go because one of the porters was not here, so I worked with The Acrobat on side summie and capoeira.  It is pretty hard, capoeira, but rewarding, I think.  The sides are coming much better, and I was soloing them over a mat.  I want to take them to the street, soon.  Three-highs were tough.  They did not tell me that the middle guy has the hardest job.  I need to relax my feet and work on staying as stiff as a ladder.  In Teeterboadr I did my first solo jump backwards, but not before I did a couple of buckaroos into the pit.  Hopefully this will improve with time.  I also worked with Andre on getting my running salto off the wall to look better.  So far not much luck, though.